‘Ceasefire Saved Pakistan Air Force In 1965 War’
- Had the 1965 Indo-Pak war continued for some more days, as the then IAF chief, Air Marshal Arjan Singh, thought, India would have completely destroyed Pakistani Air Force as they were not able to sustain their tactical operations. But then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri was under enormous international pressure to accept the ceasefire.
- Air Marshal Bharat Kumar (Retd.) shared these views while speaking at the concluding day of the three-day Military Literature Festival here on Sunday during a panel discussion on “Air power lessons learnt from the 1965 war and their implementation”.
- Focusing on the loss of Indian aircraft while on ground, especially in Pathankot air base, he added, “We were actually caught off guard. Nobody was expecting the war to start on September 1.”
- Another panellist Jagan Pilarisetti, who is author of books on 1965 war and Bangladesh war, said the 1965 war was a self-restricted envelope in which India conducted operations.
- There were restrictions like not to attack Pakistan airfields and not to retaliate against Pakistan in the eastern sector. “We also said let’s not attack the Peshawar airfield till the second week of the war. Transport aircraft were not used as bombers and India fought small tactical actions over a small area,” he added.
- Agreeing that restrictions in the 1965 war were not justified, Air Marshal Kumar said, “Post Kutch invasion by Pakistan (in April 1965), there were discussions between the then air chief, Air Marshal Arjan Singh, defence minister and the Prime Minister.
- There was a lot of reluctance on their part to permit the Air Force to be used in the manner as the services felt the best way to do.” But the panellists agreed in unison that India learnt lessons from the weakness in the 1965 war and in the 1971 Indo-Pak war there was no restrictions and the entire Air Force was used for operations.
- The war, which started on September 1, 1965, lasted for 23 days in which over 3,000 Indian defence personnel were killed and around 2,500 on Pakistani soil.
- The Indian Air Force had to settle with a loss of 65 aircraft, half of them on the ground, and 28 air warriors were either killed or taken prisoners of war. Whereas Pakistan Air Force lost 20 aircraft.
- Focusing on the air defence aspects in the 1965 war, Group Capt R S Chhatwal (Retd) said that India was lacking ample quality radars and the Pakistani defence forces had advanced air defence. “Even their pilots were well trained by the US,” he added.
- Air-Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd), fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, spoke on the important role played by helicopters and transport aircraft during the war. On the use of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in such operations in future, he opined that it could not be left alone to the UAVs to decide tactical operations to avoid disasters. Rather the such machines should be directed and controlled by men only.
- Pushpinder Singh, an author on defence matters, focused on the need to upgrade our forces, skills and equipment with the time. “Pakistani Air Force has also honed their skills in the past,” he added.